I went to see "The Women" in January 2009. Since I had the misfortune to encounter this piece of dull on TV, it's my duty to warn anyone who cares to read: dull alert.
The film is based on the 1939 offering of the same name. Back then it starred Joan Crawford as the **** (appropriate, but I find her so scary hard to believe any man would leave his scary wife for an even scarier mistress), Norma Shearer as the cuckholded woman (don´t remember much of her except that she was the freak with the red pointe shoes who danced till she died......or something) and Rosalind Russell as Sylvia (Annette Benning plays her in the revival). As I don´t remember the name of the Jada Pinkett Smiths character I have no idea who played her role back then. Wonder if it was as much an after-thought-token-pc move back then too? You know, black and
gay - whoa. How racy is that.
The parallels in the plot from the 1939 version to the 2008 versions is the manicurist. Oh, and that no men appear in either film. Otherwise, some nipping and tucking to make it blander and duller for the supposed dummies Hollywood assumes we have turned into in the new version. New, but not improved. So - plot in a nutshell: four friends rally around one as one of them finds out best friend is being cheated on via afore-mentioned blabber-mouthed manicurist. Usual turn of events, some soul-searching, reassessing of friendships, relationships with men, women and daughters. Bla. Happy ending, of course.
So now I can move on to the general bashing of this movie. And here there is lots to bash. There were some so-called cameos - Candice Bergen and Bette Midler. While Candice`s role was quite similar to that of the one she played in Sex and the City - the SATC role was definitely funnier. And because that came first, seemed fresher, more caustic in its wit. In general I have to say that "The Women" came across as a stale leftovers brunch of SATC. Four girlfriends, all with cushy jobs and terribly fashion conscious. But what SATC had going for it was the series. So watching the movie was a nostalgic reunification, no matter how badly it was perceived - it always had that 5 year historical success and familiarity to fall back on. "The Women" doesn´t. Plus the characters just aren´t as likable.
Moving on - the cast - with the exception of Meg Ryan - was ok. But since Meg Ryan had the main role - well, there you go. It just ruined the whole thing. Plus the direction was sloppy and lugubrious. The writing was ok - but the delivery and timing always seemed off, somehow. So I will chalk that up to the director and completely blame her. Diane English. Just looking over her credits list - well, Murphy Brown. Guess that explains the Candice Bergen presence. Again - another dull and obvious choice.
Example on some script fillers: they make an attempt to poke fun at all the surgically enhanced women running around Manhatten - it didn´t quite work as they have this bulge-lipped, tautly stretched, annoyingly coiffed heroine in their midst -- namely Meg Ryan. If her character would have had the guts to admit to being a victim herself of trying to turn back the tide, then ok. But - nope. Nothing. Not even a mention in the credits list: you know: botox and lip enhancement specialist person to Ms. Ryan: Dr. Sean McNamara. And while one can buy the fact that the others have a self-deprecating way about them, Meg Ryan (nor her character) does. Which proves my point that she can´t act worth ****. Especially when she is completely out of her comfort zone. And she seems to have been out of it since she hit 40.
I mean, what the hell happend to her? She was capable - about 10 years ago (when was her last hit - "You´ve got Mail?") of opening a movie. Sure, it was with Tom Hanks - but really carried her half well. And certainly contributed as much to their various successes as he did. I think the clue lies in the "ten years ago". Where she still looked young enough to get away with the cute-goofy-smarter-than-she-looks-girl-next-door routine. Although I do want to stress that I don´t feel age is the issue. Her looks are the issue with me. ON the other hand, maybe it is difficult to age gracefully when you are the cutsy type. Dunno. Have to think about that. I mean, look at Shirley Temple. She never made it past ten with any success. I think it may take some courage to completely cast that image aside and do an about face.
Annette Benning was good. In fact the only one with on screen integrity. Ok, backtracking a bit: Bette Midler has to be added to the short list. But just not enough screen time to make a difference for this particular movie.
Debra Messing was her usual annoying screeching over-acting self. On Will&Grace, in weekly half hour installments, one could endure it. But on the big screen, she is just plain annoying.
Jada Pinkett Smith: well, she didn´t have much of a role really. And seemed just in there to underline the fact that Hollywood fancies itself be PC. Her character was gay. Wow. But the way it was handled was idiotic. Her supermodel girlfriend was ridiculous. With her snarls. She literally snarled at people. What was that about? Was it supposed to be some read-between the lines thing? That they are into whips and leather? No resolve on that. But frankly, don´t think anyone cares much. I guess the role gave her something to do - a bit of face time to boost the ego. Must be tough with an uber-mega-superstar husband - pretty much the only guy in town who can open a movie with some serious $$$. Whereas she has to be happy she even gets her face on the poster. Hell, even her kid has more talent.
Oh, right, there was Eva Mendes as the **** mistress who nabs Ryan´s husband. My only comment to that: good choice.
So, my advice - go rent the 1939 version.